By Ana Chupeska
The debate on Open Balkan (OB) initiative is taking on some uncanny dimensions in our public life. More and more often, we hear that OB and the Berlin Process (BP) are mutually exclusive.
However, we should not descend into that trap, in to that superficial thesis. That is for several reasons. First, both initiatives have related concepts and same goals, for which they can develop simultaneously and smoothly. Of course, the delicacy of each one has to be understood.
The reflected EU “skepticism” towards the OB, which is seen in statement inconsistency in some of EU officials – cannot be the most valuable argument against OB at the expense of BP…
On the contrary, we must be aware that this “inconsistency” is one constant feature of “The Union” when it comes to its assessments and actions in reference to international relations and national foreign policies. It is something that often manifests itself to many other issues, as well.
Hence, the so-called skepticism of the EU regarding the OB should be analyzed with a certain reservation and via the prospects of the best interests of the Region. The only relevant argument related to this kind of “skepticism” concerns the criteria on which OB is based. Or, to put it simply, as long as Open Balkan is based on EU criteria, EU will support the initiative!
Even more, BP itself could even act correctively in relation to OB, i.e., OB can be a good entry level. On the other hand, after the statements of Escobar and Hill, it is more than clear that USA firmly stands in support of OB initiative. Also it encourages BiH, Kosovo and Montenegro to join the one.
What does that mean? It may sound strange to some, but, in OB, USA seems to recognize an extraordinary opportunity to solve the most lingered, complex and security-risk situations which are still present in WB Region.
With the voluntary accession of Kosovo in OB, it is expected for the ethno-populist rhetoric of Kurti and Vucik to be depressed. This in turn can have an effect of relaxation of their relationship. In this line, an improvement in the quality of negotiations supported by the EU is anticipated, which consequently implies a reduction of the insecurity of the Region (which is totally unacceptable for both the EU and the USA).
With the expansion of the OB, and thus the overcoming of its structural deficiency, unquestionably a certain amortization of the increasing pressure on Serbia to recognize Kosovo will follow. At the same time, that would be an excellent alibi for consecutive concessions of both Governments, which would inevitably track down.
Secondly, with the joining of BiH in OB, the aspirations for some kind of revisions of the Dayton Agreement, as well as the nationalist aspirations of certain individuals, would be satisfied in some way, because in this way they will have the opportunity to be under the same roof with their “brothers”.
Furthermore, and most importantly, OB is a process through which countries are given the opportunity consciously and responsibly to do something useful for their citizens and to get out of the medieval mood. Even more, they can act in favor of their European future.
Here I want to emphasize that OB is not a YUGO-RESTAURATORY initiative. The cooperation in this platform is based on sovereign and independent member states.
OB is something that can significantly improve the economic circumstances of the citizens and gives to the Region an opportunity to develop faster and easier towards EU integration. That indeed is a common goal of all these countries.
For a successful outcome of a simultaneous development of both initiatives the acceptance and similarity of the criteria for cooperation is needed. Especially, those criteria related to the conditions for regional cooperation and the corresponding criteria for membership in the EU. As long as the process is based on these criteria, there is no need for skepticism about the “authoritarian spill overs”.
Finally, and most importantly, for this to be successful, the Balkan political elites must be extremely serious and responsible and they have to act with a necessary amount of progressive vision for the development of the Region.
As long as these positions are hold, both the Berlin Process and the EU will be open to the Balkan process of democratic emancipation.